2011 St. Patrick’s Day Season, Day 3

Originally written 3/11/2011.

Wow. I really thought, as I was writing my Day 1 post (http://nerdseye.com/2016/01/07/2011-st-patricks-day-season-day-1/), that nothing this St. Pat’s season could top my screw-up on Wednesday. Honestly, I thought that nothing in the next five to ten St. Pat’s seasons could top my screw-up on Wednesday. I figured people would be talking about “the great screw-up of ‘11” with their grandchildren around the campfire, right along with the time when the old lady hit our dancer Phil with her walker (remind me to tell you about that one sometime).

But no. I had to go and top it two days later.

My sister and I performaned a show this morning at a retirement community in Denver, and it was a great show. The community had an auditorium with an actual stage and dressing rooms, which was a treat. Most of the time, we’re dancing on our plywood boards in a rec room or a dining room. This time, we were on a huge wooden stage four feet off the ground. The kids did a good job, including four of them who were doing their first or second show in public, and the audience just loved them. Afterwards, the kids went out and talked to people, and the organizer gave them cookies. The kids were so happy. How can you top free cookies?

The show was very close to our store and office, so my sister and I went back there to have lunch and catch up on office work. We both had shows in the evening, my sister in Boulder and me in Denver, so we figured we’d get a bunch of stuff done, including some planning for next week’s shows, and then we could leave around 5 to get to our next performances. It felt good to actually be ahead for once.

At 2:00, the phone rang.

Me: Hello?
Voice on the other end: Hi, I’m calling because we’re supposed to be having dancers this afternoon, and the letter we got said people would arrive at 1:45 to set up. It’s 2, and no one’s here yet.
Me: Thanks for letting me know. Give me one moment and I’ll check on that for you.

A strange, deep calm came over me. I think it was shock setting in. I opened up the Excel spreadsheet which has all our show information in it, and I looked at the shows for 3/11/11. Yep, sure enough, we were booked for a show in Commerce City from 2:30-3:00 p.m. I even remembered sending out the contract, since the activities director for the facility had an unusual name. Too bad I hadn’t remembered before then.

My brain seized up. I had no idea what to do next. Luckily (I guess), my mouth just kept right on talking.

Me: Well, it looks like there was some kind of administrative mix-up about the time of your show on our end. We’ll be there as quickly as we can, and I apologize if we’re a few minutes late.

The activities director didn’t sound too thrilled as she said OK and hung up, and I couldn’t blame her. If our situations were reversed, I would be absolutely furious.

My brain still wasn’t working, but my mouth shouted to my sister that we had a show I’d forgotten about, and we probably needed to leave right then. My sister, bless her, said (after first making sure she’d heard be right), “Okay, let me pack our dresses back up.” Less than two minutes later, we were in the car and headed north towards Commerce City as quickly as traffic would let us.

One of the great things about my relationship with my sister is that we rarely freak out at the same time. Usually, one of us freaks out while the other one is rational and compassionate. My sister was a rock all the way up to the show, and I don’t know what I would have done without her. She assured me that:
A) I wasn’t going prematurely senile
B) I hadn’t “lost my mojo,” as I insisted on putting it, and
C) Everything was going to work out okay

After I calmed down, we spent the rest of the drive alternately planning the show and trying to figure out what had gone wrong. Here (in case you’re interested) is what happened:

When we get a booking, we enter the show on the Excel spreadsheet, make a performance contract and letter, and then print out a sign-up sheet. The contract and letter go to the show organizer, and the sign-up sheet goes in our show notebook so that dancers can sign up to be in that particular show. There are three of us who work in the office, and any of us can make contracts.

We can’t remember which of us made this particular contract, but whoever it was must have been interrupted before they printed out the sign-up sheet. The show was on the spreadsheet, and we made the contract, but no sign-up sheet ever got made.

This was a big problem for two reasons. The first was that my sister and I both often use the sign-up sheets to remind ourselves about upcoming shows, and both of us had looked at the sign-up sheets instead of the spreadsheet while we were sending making our calendars. Since the spreadsheet and the show notebook are supposed to be the same, it hadn’t seemed like a big deal. That was why I had forgotten about the show.

The second reason it was a BIG problem was that, without a sign-up sheet, no one had signed up for the show, because they didn’t know it was happening. This time, it wasn’t just a case of me getting my times mixed up and being late while everyone else was already there. This time, there wasn’t anyone else. Not only were we late, but my sister and I were going to have to do the whole 30-minute performance by ourselves.

It was about 2:40 when we finally reached the nursing home. My sister started unloading the boards and sound system while I ran inside. We’d performed at this facility before, so I knew where to go. Inside the dining room, which had been converted into an open space for the show, there were about twenty-five residents, all sitting and facing the very empty spot in the middle. There was a woman standing near the empty spot, looking expectantly and disappointedly at me as I came in, and since she looked like she was in charge, I went up to her and groveled shamelessly. There had been an administrative error…I was very, very sorry this had happened…we pride ourselves on timeliness…we would perform for free as an apology….

The woman, who had a thin, disapproving face, looked at me stonily, and after a moment she said, “That’s nice, but you’ll have to repeat all that to the activities director.”

So, she got the activities director, a much younger, friendly-looking woman, and I groveled shamelessly all over again. Administrative error…very sorry…timeliness…free show….

She was great. She said, “Hey, these things happen, and don’t worry about it. Go ahead and set up your stage, and when you’re ready, I’ll show you where to change.”

So my sister and I set up the stage while the disapproving woman (who was, thank God, an employee and not a random resident) asked the residents some trivia questions about ad slogans. We got dressed, and at 3:00 we were ready to do our show.

The show went surprisingly well. My sister and I took turns dancing, doing 1 or 2 steps at a time with the various pieces of music we’d prepared for our regular shows. Between each dance, one of us would take the mic and talk about the dancing and the culture. After we’d done all four soft shoe dances, I talked about the costumes and walked around the room showing everybody the embroidery on my team costume while my sister changed her shoes. Then I changed my shoes while she did the next dance. We’ve danced together for so long that we didn’t need to communicate much about what we were going to do, and I think all the dances looked fine. We did have a couple comedy moments in the last number because we hadn’t decided beforehand who was going first, but we hammed it up and the audience laughed and it was all good.

Anyway, I was dripping with sweat by the time we finished and my face looked exactly like a ripe tomato, but I felt like we’d given the audience a good performance. I also felt better about my fitness. If I could get through a 2-person show and still be able to talk between the numbers, maybe I was in better shape than I thought. Guess we’ll find out for sure tomorrow morning.

Fortunately for us, both our shows in the evening were fantastic. Both of us were performing for special needs groups, and those are some of the best shows we do all year. The audiences are enthusiastic, appreciative, and excited to do the audience participation numbers we throw in for them, and afterwards they want to take pictures of us and get our autographs. They make us feel like rock stars. One year, they chanted for us to do an encore until we came back after the show was over, and this year they gave us a standing ovation at the end.

That’s why we do this—to make audiences happy. All the preparation and practice and long days are 100% worth it when we can brighten someone’s day. At the end of our 2-person show in the middle of the day, one of the residents stayed in the dining room to watch us as we took up the floor and packed up, because she didn’t want it to be over just yet.

And somehow, that moment made everything that had happened feel all right.